West of Memphis

“When Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, otherwise known as the West Memphis Three, were released from jail in Arkansas in 2011, it appeared to have brought an end to one of the most media-covered American crime stories. Imprisoned in 1993 as teenagers for the alleged ritual slaying of three eight-year-old boys, their case was chronicled in three HBO documentaries over 15 years which left the clear impression that the men were victims. 
“What can Amy Berg possibly add to all this with her new documentary, West of Memphis? A great deal. What sets this film apart from previous efforts to document the story is that producers Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) and Fran Walsh financed a private investigative team with legal and forensic experts who re-examined old evidence, conducted new interviews and found new witnesses. Their reinterpretation of the crime scene leads to some “gotcha” moments that no earlier doc could provide. In the end, Berg and the investigators amass enough evidence to help set the falsely accused free.
“Though this multi-strand story revolves around dozens of characters, a few individuals drive the narrative. One is Pam Hobbs, the mother one of the murdered boys; her awakening suspicions about her former husband, Terry Hobbs, lead to one of the film’s most painful developments. Another significant presence is ex-FBI behavioural science specialist, John Douglas, who coolly dismisses the original suspicions of ritual killings, instead focusing on the personal, one-off nature of the murders.
“The film’s conclusion is far from comforting, however. The innocent were punished and the guilty still walk free. Echols insists there was nothing exceptional about three “white trash” teens getting railroaded for a crime in Arkansas. That the West Memphis Three were lucky enough to gain the attention of deep-pocketed, powerful celebrities seems chillingly arbitrary.” - Liam Lacey, Globe & Mail

West of Memphis

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